Police investigate incident involving white Warren officer, black delivery driver

Charles E. Ramirez
The Detroit News

Warren — Officials are investigating an incident in which a white police officer arrested a black man who was delivering a package to a home Tuesday.

Warren Police Commissioner Bill Dwyer said Wednesday the department's Internal Investigations division is looking into the incident, which happened at about 2 p.m. in the 1100 block of Engleman just east of Hoover between 10 Mile and 11 Mile, he said.

The driver, 23, had parked his delivery truck with its left wheel to the curb, according to police.

"The officer had a legal reason to contact the driver as he was parked illegally," Dwyer said. "The officer attempted to speak to the driver, informed him of the violation and requested his driver's license. The driver became argumentative and refused multiple requests for his license."

The commissioner said the officer asked the driver for his license 11 times.

"The officer attempted to place the driver under arrest," he said. "The driver was not cooperative and refused the officer's commands to place his hands behind his back. The driver wouldn't comply and a struggle ensued. The officer took the driver to the ground to gain control of him for everyone's safety and before the situation escalated further."

Dwyer said neither the officer nor the driver was injured during the encounter. In addition, neither of them requested medical attention.

"Once the handcuffs were on the driver, he was placed in a scout car and transported to the Warren Police Department without further incident," he said.

Authorities charged the driver with resisting arrest, failure to obey a lawful command and failure to produce a driver's license, Dwyer said. Under state law, resisting arrest is a two-year felony. The other two charges are misdemeanors.

He also said the driver was released on a personal bond. Police plan to forward the case against him to the Macomb County Prosecutor's Office for its review.

Amazon spokeswoman Deborah Bass said she saw the videos and the response was "unacceptable."

"We expect a swift investigation and full accountability for those involved," Bass said in an emailed statement. "Amazon will deploy all necessary resources to investigate the matter with our Delivery Service Provider, as well as to represent and support the driver.”

Dwyer said he will take proper action, if any is required, once internal affairs completes its investigation. He said depending on the outcome, that could mean exoneration or termination.

The officer involved in the incident has been a peace officer for 19 years, Dwyer said.

Also, the commissioner said he does not tolerate excessive force, profiling or any sort of biases by his officers. "We have great officers here who do an outstanding job," Dwyer said.

On Tuesday, Warren Mayor Fouts issued a news release calling for the officer involved in the incident to be terminated. He also posted it on his Facebook page.

"There was an outrageous and unacceptable physical altercation with a Warren Police officer involving a young African American delivery man for Amazon to a Warren home today," his statement said. "I have spoken with Police Commissioner Bill Dwyer and have ordered that this officer be terminated immediately."

"I have zero tolerance for this disgusting act against an innocent person. If the last two weeks have taught us anything, it is that bad behavior by ANY police officer will not be tolerated!

"The policy of the Warren Police Department and the training provided to every officer is to deescalate every situation. This officer did not follow policy or his training and is not fit to serve the citizens in Warren."

Fouts also said he would ask the Macomb County Prosecutor's Office to look into the matter and decide if the officer should be charged.

However, about a half-hour after, Fouts asked media to wait to disseminate the information. He also removed the Facebook page post.

Later, the mayor posted a new statement on Facebook: "The previous post regarding an altercation was taken down at the request of the Warren Police Commissioner. I await further details based upon additional information. I received several phone calls earlier regarding this incident requiring me to make a statement that any type of aggressive behavior is not tolerated. I was upset that one individual could possibly besmirch the fine reputation of Warren police officers."

Twitter: @CharlesERamirez